Student Protest: A Perspective from the UK

I approach student activism as an academic sociologist motivated by the question of why students, as a group, seem so often to be involved in political struggles around the world, compared with other social groups, and why, as some of my own work suggests, the process of going to university seems to have a politicising effect upon some. Students are more prone to become involved in political struggles of various kinds than many of their contemporaries.

Much of the academic research on student movements focuses either upon the supposed psychological characteristics /conflicts of young people or the supposed liberal values imparted to young people by way of higher education. Neither of these accounts will suffice, however. The psychology of youth is too general, applying to all young people when it is a specifically students who are prominent in social movement activism. The claim regarding liberal values, by contrast, is too specific: it is not only students in the liberal institutions of liberal societies who become active in social movements. Prominent and high profile student movements sometimes form in and protest against conditions in highly illiberal societies (e.g. in both China and the Arab Spring). And, both historically and more recently, students have sometimes mobilised around or in support of illiberal causes (e.g. fascism and various forms of religious fundamentalism).

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About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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